I have watched the internet eat itself over the last week. No doubt some of you are expecting me to weigh in on the various aspects of Avengers: Age of Ultron, which have been so hotly debated over the last seven days. Well, get ready to be shocked. No! I refuse to give an opinion about the film other than the fact that I found it enjoyable. The reason I refuse, is because I do not believe that the current modern discourse has the ability to take anything I say and not turn me into a villain. I am not here to discuss the movie; I am here to discuss the discussion of the movie, and the greater discourse at play.
I do not believe that there is much of value in the modern technological discussions being had. It has been a simple task not to weigh in because, I have seen both sides of the argument and it really just boils down to painting everything with a wide brush. It is incredibly easy to throw out a series of labels. Words that end in the suffixes ism and ist are bandied about with little regard to their true meaning. I have seen people threatened. I have seen people cowed into not speaking. I have seen the word Nazi attached to the back of words ending in ism and ist. Which, as we all know, is an excellent way to get people to believe what you are saying.
The modern discourse is simply nothing more than inflammatory. It has become its most base. This is not just the problem with Avengers, this is a problem around the internet as a whole. Every issue presented these days is boiled down to the most simple response. After all, what can we say of any value in 140 characters. I have watched people I know well, tear each other apart over the internet. These are people on both sides of the argument who I respect. People who do not know each other, yet over a short series of words passed back and forth over a piece of entertainment, they have become mortal enemies.
The modern discourse does not consider context. It does not consider facts, or statistics. It does not consider history. It is driven purely by emotion. It is reactionary and intentionally inflammatory. No longer do we turn to the three rhetorical styles of ethos, pathos and logos to make our points. Instead, we hurl insults and tear at each other like rabid animals focused only on the kill.
We have created a narrative which consists of an “Us” vs “Them” mentality. The problem with this course, is that these discussions are so much more complex and nuanced than we have allowed them to be. So, the second we disagree, even in the slightest with “Us” we immediately become one of “Them.” The problem here of course is that we don’t believe one hundred percent with “Them” either. Therefore, we are neither “Us” nor “Them”, we become “I”; and “I” will never come out on top of an argument with “Them.” The fact of the matter though, is that none of that matters because the ubiquitous “They” are bad and we (read I) are good. Therefore, we are right and deserve to laud our rightness over “Them.” Isn’t that what the modern discourse is all about? Being right.
I promise that I can argue any side of the arguments revolving around Avengers. I can argue any side of any argument. I learned the requisite skill sets in college as an undergrad and grad student. This does not just apply to interpretations of films, it applies to the world at large. I have seen good things and bad things from people on all sides of every argument. The problem of course, is that the modern discourse only sees one thing at a time. We all have traits which are desirable and traits which are less so; but once we begin the internet arguments, we spend our time pointing out each others’ perceived follies. Since we do not really know each other, only the internet personas we see, we will never see the whole person. We will only see the horrible monster we have built up in our heads.
The thing that is the most interesting, is that many of the people I have seen arguing over the internet over the last week are more alike than they are different. They are closer to being grouped together in the same “Us” than separate as two very different versions “Them.” So the end result is a snake busy eating its own tail because he simply doesn’t realize that the tail is part of the larger whole.